Saturday, October 24, 2009

Big Switch

Nicholas Carr is one of my favorite technology authors. His blog is always worth of reading. His book could only be better.

In Big Switch, Nicholas Carr expressed a key point: computing is turning into a new type of utility, which will bring the world the change as great as what the prevalence of electricity had done to us.

The claim is bald. But it is reasonable after carefully thinking of it. As well as electricity breaks the barrier of energy deliverance, the modern Web-based computing is breaking the barrier of information transmission. As I expressed in my book review for Programming the Universe, information along with mass and energy is another fundamental element that constitutes the universe. We thus may categorize the invention of modern Web-based computing along with the invention of electricity and the invention of wheel being the top three greatest inventions that fundamentally evolve our society.

The invention of wheel breaks the barrier of mass transportation; the invention of electricity breaks the barrier of energy deliverance; and the invention of modern Web-based computing breaks the barrier of information transmission. This path is the big switch we talk about.

Our human society began with consuming natural product, which is made of mass. Hence the primary demand from the beginning was to transport mass more efficiently. The invention of wheel overcame the gravity obstacle that in nature mass is to us. In consequence, the invention allowed humans to transport heavy-weight product in long distance and therefore we were able to live close to each other in which was away from where natural product grew. The invention of wheel enabled the formation of human society and its early evolving.

Natural product soon became insufficient due to the increased human population. We must produce man-made product to keep on the growth of the society. Energy forges mass to new product of mass, which is essential to human production. The problem of energy consumption emerged.

For long time, energy could not be delivered except of in the form of mass. We had to transport things such as wood and coal instead of delivering the directly useable energy in distance. The problem became extreme severe in the industrial revolution. Suddenly the demand to energy consumption was over what the regular local providers could support in general. The cost of energy deliverance soon became the bottleneck to the further growth of human society.

The invention of electricity overcame the distance obstacle that in nature energy is to us. Unlike mass, energy indeed does not have to occupy space; the gravity obstacle thus was not natural to energy. The distance obstacle does apply, however, because normally where energy is generated is varied from where energy is consumed. Electricity allowed energy being delivered in long distance at low cost by avoiding transporting them in the form of mass.

The further evolution of human society demands more improvement in the rate of production. The importance of information in production gradually became a major issue. Energy forges new product of mass, but it is information that guides how energy can be effectively used to forge the product of mass. The faster information can be spread, the more rapid information can be computed and analyzed, the better product rate we can achieve. After resolving the gravity obstacle and the distance obstacle of man-made production in general, the next major obstacle to overcome is the time obstacle. The modern Web-based computing is the solution.

Unlike mass and energy, information does not have the distance obstacle. Even if we have to physically deliver books, a mass product that records information, it is still not a problem at all if we compare it to the transportation of mass or energy in form of mass. The real problem of information transmission is time. Humans need to learn information, think of information, understand information, and then finally apply information. The process takes time. And time does matter critically in production. This problem became crucial after the general problems of mass transportation and energy deliverance had been conquered.

The modern Web-based computing constructs an environment that information can rapidly shared and computed before somebody consumes it. It significantly shortens the time needed for information learning, information understanding. Many times, we can directly jump to the stage of information application by skipping the previous stages of information consumption. Therefore, it overcomes the time obstacle in production.

Wheel --- mass --- the gravity obstacle
Electricity --- energy --- the distance obstacle
Modern Web-based computing --- information --- the time obstacle

This is the big switch we are experiencing at this moment.

Nicolas Carr’s book describes more details of what were truly happening in the last switch. The book is knowledgeable and I recommend it to whoever is interested in the future of our human society evolution.


Anonymous said...

I find all this extremely interesting. Let me point out the big flaw of Soviet planned economy; transport costs were not taken into account. The tautological optimality of the ideal plan economy must have som congruency to real management.


N'est-que pas que la solitude elle-mème eveille quelque attente fébrile? Voici l'entrée, vide, discrètetement illuminée comme une musée nocturne – la terasse, avec ses torchères ondoyantes par un soir d'Avent étrangement doux – laissant le vestibule et les murmures de voix – la chambre immaculée immaculée et la musique de danse derrière le mur – et le bar à cocktails mondains – le bassin où le nageur s'entrâine, longeur après longeur, il en n'a jamais assez, il doit y mettre de sien – enfin, tournant vers le haut au coin du sombre couloir vient la fille noire et pâle, altière, déterminée et de style épuré, ainsi qu'un moderne avion de chasse suédois.



I went downtown, saw Katie in the nude
on Common Avenue, detracted soltitude
as it were, like a dream-state rosely hued,
like no one else could see her; DAMN! I phewed;

was reciprokelly then, thank heaven, viewed,
bestowed unique hard-on! but NOT eschewed,
contrair-ee-lee, she took a somewhat rude
'n readidy attude of Sex Prelude; it BREWED!

And for a start, i hiccuped "Hi!", imbued
with Moooood! She toodledooed: "How queued
your awe-full specie-ally-tee, Sir Lewd,
to prove (alas!), to have me finely screwed,

and hopef'lly afterwards beloved, wooed,
alive, huh? Don't you even DO it, Duu-uuude!"

My English Poetry Blog


Chica de Léon, en tus ojos marchan las requétés,
no ya están demasiado ejercitados a justo esto...
- Puedes que nos hayáis metido no muy buena acompañía?
- Mi obrero, quien ha hecho un jornada excelente

relata sobre las aventuras fatales de su abuelo
y sus compinches cuyo piedad estaba levemente católico;
hicieron sopa de clavos, sangre de clero y corpus christi,
se unió despuéz a la hez de Colunna Durruti. Tu ries!

no sobremanera respetuosa de las aberraciones republicanas,
según parece no tampoco del todo indiferente a vino y flamenco...
- Está un noche amigable entre otros en algun sitio,
en alguno de nos cada vez más remotos jardines Espanolas.

My spanish poetry blog


Consider Sex and time, procreation, reincarnation. Trigonometry! I envisage the time axis as the repetitive tangens function. Do you see what I mean? What can be tentatively derived from this notion? Clue: orgasm AND birth pangs at tan 0.

My Philosophy

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- Peter Ingestad, Sweden

Anonymous said...

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